Ham bone (and ham), beans, sweet potato and greens soup — a big bowl of tasty comfort that’s a perfect recipe for a chilly day or night. Don’t have a ham bone? Sear some slices of ham instead. Mmm mmm good.
It all started with a ham bone. As soon as I saw Jim taking a ham out of a grocery bag after Thanksgiving, I claimed the bone. At first, I planned on making Hoppin’ John soup for New Year’s Day. But since New Year’s Day is also Jim’s birthday, I made what he wanted for dinner: corned beef and cabbage.
This week, I remembered the bone I had stashed in the freezer and decided to make soup. I started with the usual soup base of onion, carrot, celery and garlic, then added the ingredients I expect in a good soup – ham, of course, beans and greens. The sweet potatoes were a last minute inspiration and I’m so glad I thought of them. They’re a great complement to all the other flavors.
I had the brilliant (or not) idea of searing the ham bone, or rather, the meat on the bone, before adding it to the soup. Maybe you’ll be better at searing the ham bone than I was. My plan was to get more flavor through caramelization – following the same principle as searing meat and sautéing vegetables before adding them to a crockpot. But I ended up getting a burnt patch stuck to the bottom of the pot and had to wash the pot out before cooking the onions so they wouldn’t taste burnt too. The ham did get a nice sear on it and the soup was full of flavor after only cooking about 45 minutes, so maybe my crazy plan worked.
Come to think of it, you could add the chopped ham to the pot the same time as the onion mixture – I didn’t think of that until just now – and that might add even more flavor to the soup.
I didn’t have time to soak dried beans so I went for canned beans. If you have time, use dried beans for more flavor. I chose pinto beans because I’m always using white beans in soups and wanted something different – it was a great choice.
The high temperature today in North Carolina is going to be only 27 degrees. A good night for leftover soup. I bet it’ll be even better tonight.
Ham Bone, Beans and Greens Soup
You’ll need a large pot, that’s it.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 leftover ham bone
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried or ground sage
- 2 cups leftover ham, chopped
- 2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 9 cups water
- 2 (15 oz) cans pinto, cannellini or white (Great Northern) beans, drained and rinsed – or use about 3 cups dried beans
- 1 bunch of kale, spinach or chard, sliced into about 1/2” ribbons and chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
- Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Sear ham bone on as many sides as you can. If there’s any sugar or glaze on the bone, be careful not to leave burnt residue on the pot. Lower the heat to medium-low, remove the ham bone and add the onion, celery and carrot to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly tender. Add garlic, thyme and sage, and cook for one minute, or until the garlic is just starting to golden.
Add ham, ham bone, sweet potatoes, bay leaves and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to medium-low. Let the soup simmer for 30 minutes (or more if you have time), or until the sweet potatoes are nearly soft and the broth has lots of flavor. If the broth doesn’t taste delicious, you need to continue simmering it. When you’re ready to move forward, add the beans and greens and continue cooking for another 15 minutes, or until the greens are soft but not faded in color. If using spinach, cook for only about 5 minutes more, not 15 minutes.
Remove the ham bone and bay leaves and add parsley. Slice any remaining ham off the bone, chop it and add it to the soup. Taste the soup for seasoning and add salt, pepper and/or hot sauce if needed.
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